The Big Shoulders Fund works across 89 different schools in Chicago, 74 elementary and 15 high schools, reaching nearly 24,000 students, 80% of those students are minorities, 61% of them are from low-income families, and 32% are not Catholic. The organisation provides scholarships, special education programmes, instructional equipment; much needed school facility improvements, faculty support, operating grants and more to the schools.
Does it work?
On average by seventh grade, students in Big Shoulders Fund schools achieve at or above grade level on standardised tests. Last year 77% of eighth graders chose to attend a Catholic or quality, college prep public option. Of the last five graduating classes of Big Shoulders Fund scholars 83% enrolled in college in the Fall following high school graduation, well ahead of the local, state and national averages.
How do we work with them?
For over a year staff members in our Chicago office have been supporting Holy Angels School, a Big Shoulders Fund school in the Bronzeville neighbourhood located on Chicago's South side. The school serves a large African-American community, 94% of their students receive free or reduced lunch and although a Catholic school, 87% of their students are non-Catholic. In February this year staff participated in our 4th service day at the school, below Katelyn Six talks about her experience of volunteering.
“When it comes to big shoulders...on Thursday February 5th, we had 31. That's right; more than 30 employees took time out of their working day and hopped on a big yellow school bus, to spend the afternoon with the pupils of Holy Angels. Volunteers were split between the classes, some got to demonstrate their athleticism, in gym class, with the 3rd through 5th graders in a rousing game of Capture the Bacon. Others spent time with some of the younger children helping them with their reading as they learnt new words and some got creative brushing up their arts and crafts skills with the 7th and 8th graders.
No matter if you were racing around in the gym, crafting it up in art, or enjoying a picture book, one thing was certain; there was no shortage of laughter or good humour! To cap off the afternoon, paintbrush-wielding co-workers shared laughs while applying a much needed coat of paint to the school's gymnasium floor and various hallways.
Throughout just one afternoon, so many laughs, smiles, stories and advice were shared. In the end, the biggest rewards for many were the hugs they received before saying goodbye, and the sound of excited little voices asking when Euromonitor would be coming back to visit their school again.”